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The Two Kinds of Decay: A Memoir

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.

Sarah Manguso is the author of two books of poetry, Siste Viator and The Captain Lands in Paradise, and the short story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape. In 2007 she was awared the Rome Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Time Out Chicago Best Book Book of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

The events that began in 1995 might keep happening to me as long as things can happen to me. Think of deep space, through which heavenly bodies fly forever. They fly until they change into new forms, simpler forms, with ever fewer qualities and increasingly beautiful names.

There are names for things in spacetime that are nothing, for things that are less than nothing. White dwarfs, red giants, black holes, singularities.

But even then, in their less-than-nothing state, they keep happening.

At twenty-one, just starting to comprehend all the traditional puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another unexpected challenge: a wildly unpredictable disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twentiesvanishing and then returning, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. Manguso recalls her nine-year struggle with Chronic Idiopathic Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy, or CIDP, which disintegrates the myelin coating that protects the nervous system.  She endured arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, depression, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace and self-awareness, The Two Kinds of Decay surpasses the expectations for a story about illness; Manguso trains the eyes anew on the notion of illness and survival.
"In her second year of college, the poet Sarah Manguso developed a neurological disease so uncommon it doesnt even have a real name. The autoimmune condition, a rarer form of the already rare Guillain-Barré syndrome, is known as chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy, and it took more than four years to run its course . . . In her sharp, affecting new memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay, Manguso writes from the far side of a long period of remission . . . From an original welter of experience, she has carefully culled details that remain vivid. Filtered through memory, events during her illness seem like 'heavenly bodies' that 'fly until they change into new forms, simpler forms, with ever fewer qualities and increasingly beautiful names.' Manguso is acutely interested in these processes of renaming and remembering, the way time changes what we say about the past. Her book is not only about illness but also about the ways we use language to describe it and cope with it.As much as anything, this book is a search for adequate descriptions of things heretofore unnamed and unknown . . . Through her own attentiveness, Manguso has produced a remarkable, cleareyed account that turns horror into something humane and beautiful."Emily Mitchell, The New York Times Book Review
"In her second year of college, the poet Sarah Manguso developed a neurological disease so uncommon it doesnt even have a real name. The autoimmune condition, a rarer form of the already rare Guillain-Barré syndrome, is known as chronic idiopathic demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy, and it took more than four years to run its course. For several of them, Manguso had to undergo periodic treatments in which her plasma was completely removed and replaced. The treatments worked, but sometimes only for a few days. Later, she moved to steroid treatments, which restored a degree of physical well-being but created complicated side effects. In her sharp, affecting new memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay, Manguso writes from the far side of a long period of remission. 'For seven years I tried not to remember much because there was too much to remember,' she writes. From an original welter of experience, she has carefully culled details that remain vivid. Filtered through memory, events during her illness seem like 'heavenly bodies' that 'fly until they change into new forms, simpler forms, with ever fewer qualities and increasingly beautiful names.' Manguso is acutely interested in these processes of renaming and remembering, the way time changes what we say about the past. Her book is not only about illness but also about the ways we use language to describe it and cope with it. The author of two books of poetry, Manguso brings the virtues of that form to the task of writing memoir. Her book is divided mostly into one- and two-page chapters titled like poems. She mixes high and low language, the crass and the scientific, with a lyric poets sure-handedness. The chapters themselvesamong them 'The Hematologist,' 'The Forgetful Nurse,' 'Corroboration'resemble her own poetry, broken into aphoristic, discrete sections on the page. This disjointedness gives the prose a rhythm that mirrors the confusion and fragmentation of illness. It also clears space for one of the books most remarkable aspects: its dark humor. What makes this account both bearable and moving is Mangusos keen sense of the absurdities that accompany severe illness. Often these come from its odd proximity to ordinary life . . . Manguso was already a writer when she became ill, and her obsession with words, their capacities and limitations, permeates her book. The world of hospitals and doctors has its own language, which she translates for the uninitiated reader. Her plasma replacement treatment is called 'apheresis,' which she notes is 'from the Greek aphairein, to take away.' She is amused that hematologist-oncologists abbreviate their titles to '"hem-oncs" (pronounced almost like he-monks).' But her interest is more than literary curiosity. When she has a line implanted directly into her chest so her plasma can be replaced more easily, she parses her reaction: “I had read Freud in school. He distinguishes fear, a state of worrying anticipation . . . from fright, the momentary response of our mind to a danger that has caught us by surprise but is already over.' For hours, she writes, 'I lay there, weeping in fright. Not fear. Fright.' Mangusos desire for precision is urgent, even if it cannot always be fulfilled. 'I need to describe that feeling,' she says of the deep cold induced by apheresis. 'Make a reader stop reading for a moment and think, Now I understand how cold it felt. But

Synopsis:

At 21, Manguso was faced with a wildly unpredictable disease that appeared suddenly, paralyzing her for weeks at a time. In this captivating story, she recalls her nine-year struggle with arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, addiction, and depression.

Synopsis:

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.

Synopsis:

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.

About the Author

SARAH MANGUSO is the author of two books of poetry, and the short-story collection Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Chris Roberts, March 2, 2011 (view all comments by Chris Roberts)
"The Two Kinds of Decay:" Humanity and Humility. Or the memoir as a sledge hammer, used as a device to make it a sub-literary artifice. The author is indeed on a mission and it doesn't involve the reader. This is desk drawer writing and best kept there under double lock and key. But ego is a killer, it overrides logic and we are left with the mess.
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randyhate, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by randyhate)
This book saved my life.
Not in a metaphorical sense, it really truly spurred me on make a horribly difficult health care choice - going off prednisone and onto chemo - and destroy the disease, lupus, that was eating me.
Sarah Manguso writes of her body working to eat her whole, starting at the tips of her extremities and working its way into her organs. It also more than aptly shows how she, with the help of apheresis, was able to fight back.
Her writing does not hesitate to describe in sparse, vivid detail her travails and desperation her struggles left her with.
It is readily apparent she is a poet, and her words flutter by with ease to read, but are so very much harder to digest.
I have read pages 21 & 22 so many times those words might as well be branded into my skin.

And while I may still be alive today without reading this book, I am fairly certain I would not have had the courage to switch up my meds and would likely not be ambulatory and hooked into a least one machine.

Words with that strength deserve all the kudos it has coming to it.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312428440
Author:
Manguso, Sarah
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Medical - General
Subject:
BIO026000
Subject:
Medical
Subject:
General
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Diseases - Immune System
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090531
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
8.31 x 5.51 x 0.52 in

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Related Subjects


Biography » General
Biography » Medical
Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Biographies

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Product details 192 pages Picador USA - English 9780312428440 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , At 21, Manguso was faced with a wildly unpredictable disease that appeared suddenly, paralyzing her for weeks at a time. In this captivating story, she recalls her nine-year struggle with arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, addiction, and depression.
"Synopsis" by ,

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.

"Synopsis" by ,

At twenty-one, just as she was starting to comprehend the puzzles of adulthood, Sarah Manguso was faced with another: a wildly unpredictable autoimmune disease that appeared suddenly and tore through her twenties, paralyzing her for weeks at a time, programming her first to expect nothing from life and then, furiously, to expect everything. In this captivating story, Manguso recalls her struggle: arduous blood cleansings, collapsed veins, multiple chest catheters, depression, the deaths of friends and strangers, addiction, and, worst of all for a writer, the trite metaphors that accompany prolonged illness. A book of tremendous grace, The Two Kinds of Decay transcends the very notion of what an illness story can and should be.

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